Friday, December 3, 2010

I'm Swimming in Lake OldSchool

I have never blogged about my job before.  I'm not going to (specifically) but I had such a frustrating day today that I want to talk about workplace tensions (and differences in expectation) between babyboomers and people in their 20's and early 30's. 

Someone I know, when that person talks to friends about this difference in outlook and attitude says we babyboomers are "swimming in Lake OldSchool".

On one level I realize people in their 20's and early 30's grew up in a totally different world than people in their 50's and early 60's.  I have more in common with Greatest Generation people 15 years older than me than people even 15 years younger than me.

I grew up in a world where there was no internet, where employer and employee both expected loyalty (that one is totally gone) toward each other, where people were expected to take transfers without complaint, where women stayed home to raise their children (is this beginning to sound like Mad Men?), where a person was expected to take pride in their job.

Younger employees march to a beat of a totally different drummer.  They walk in the door and wonder why they aren't CEO in three months.  They seem so needy....needy for constant praise and reinforcement.  They want a prize for every tiny accomplishment.  There's no respect for authority. (I know, there is some type of cosmic justice about that, considering that we baby boomers were "questioning authority" in the 1960's and telling each other not to "trust anyone over 30".)  I see the young people take to office technology like ducks to water, but then stare blankly when you expect them to understand concepts that aren't technology related.  They want to be challenged, but can't seem to understand that everything can't be fun, that what they are doing is called "Work" for a reason.

Because my college major was anthropology, this normally would be fascinating to me.  However, I am trying not to drown in Lake OldSchool.  I know that my generation will be gone from the workplace in a few years (or maybe not, if Social Security disappears), and these employees are going to take over.  Yes, I know it, because at work the people of my generation are constantly reminded that we are obsolete.

It's not just me.  I did a very short websearch and found entire books have been written on this workplace tension, including tomes devoted to managers who have to work with this generation gap.  However, the prevailing attitude of these books towards baby boomers seems to be "you're on your way out, so suck it up". 

So that means that the values of baby boomers are not worthwhile?  That values of wanting to give good value to an employer willing to pay for a day's work are obsolete?  That we should not point out to young ones that they are expected to work rather than surf the net and text each other?  Since when were young people granted a right to verbally abuse older coworkers because they are young and will own the workplace one day?

I don't think this is the "generation gap" of Socrates.

I don't think it is immaturity.

It is something else, a physical change in the brain.   Think that is far fetched?

When I was young, I was a big fan of science fiction. There is a 1943 science fiction story called "Mimsy Were the Borogoves."  I think about that story a lot lately, although I havn't read it in many years.
If you are interested in tension between our two generations, you may want to hunt down this story and read it.

That is what we are facing, and it isn't going to get better for people my age.

So what do we do about it, without losing our sanity?

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